2013 could be big for Tech, which could stand a big year

A day in the Sun brought much happiness. (AP photo)

One day in the Sun brought much joy to the Yellow Jackets. (AP photo)

For Georgia Tech, many things happened en route to 7-7. The Yellow Jackets barely got bowl-eligible, and then they got bowl-ineligible by losing the ACC Championship game, and then the NCAA granted a waiver that allowed Tech to be invited back to the Sun Bowl, which is where it became the only team ever to beat the preseason No. 1 after losing at home to Middle Tennessee.

When you lose seven games, you can’t say you’ve had a good season. (Unless you’re Duke, which in football nobody aspires to be.) When you win seven games after starting 2-4, neither can you say the whole thing was a total loss. The Jackets took a season going wrong and wrestled it into something that seemed better than mediocrity, even though .500 is the definition of mediocrity.

The sense now is that better days are ahead, but that sensation is largely the result of beating USC in El Paso, and bowl results aren’t always indicative of future performance. (Example: Georgia Tech lost the 2008 Chick-fil-A Bowl by 35 points and went 11-3 in 2009.) The Jackets wanted badly to beat Southern Cal, which didn’t want to play.

Yes, Tech should be better in 2013 than in 2012. It loses three starters on offense and three on defense, and the absence of quarterback Tevin Washington clears the way for Vad Lee, of whom much is expected. The guess is that interim defensive coordinator Charles Kelly passed the audition with his work against Florida State and USC, and he has to be considered an upgrade over Al Groh, for whom nothing worked.

The schedule hasn’t been finalized, but it could be adventurous. Assuming the ACC’s rotation holds in its expansion to 14 teams, the Jackets will play host to Virginia Tech, Clemson and North Carolina. There’s a chance Florida State will play here, and there’s also a chance the Jackets could visit Clemson for a second year running. There will be trips to BYU and Miami, but it’s unclear how stout the Hurricanes will be once the NCAA gets done with them. Plus the Georgia game will be in Atlanta.

If Lee is as good as advertised and the defense is indeed better, the 2013 Jackets could win nine or 10 games. But here’s the sobering part: Tech hasn’t won that many games in a year since the bulk of Chan Gailey’s leftovers departed for the NFL in January 2010. In Paul Johnson’s first two seasons here, his teams were 20-7; they’ve since gone 21-19. Since Oct. 14, 2011, the Jackets are 9-12.

Johnson takes pains to note that his teams have at least tied for the best record in the Coastal Division three times in five seasons, but the Coastal has become the lesser half of a conference that still struggles for national credibility. Yes, the Jackets wound up representing the Coastal in the ACC Championship game, but that came in a year when Virginia Tech was awful by its standards and North Carolina was on probation and Miami chose to step aside.

Credit Johnson and his Jackets for being too stubborn to collapse, but Johnson’s pride has never been in doubt, and his stylized offense remains the best thing Tech has going for it. But the Institute will in the coming weeks make a hire that could have a greater effect on the football program than Johnson’s choice for defensive coordinator.

Dan Radakovich hired Johnson, but first the athletic director had to persuade himself that a run-based approach could win big in the 21st century. Then Johnson made the AD look smart by beating Georgia in Year 1 and winning the ACC in Year 2. Now Radakovich works at Clemson, which means Johnson will soon have a new boss.

Tech’s new AD might see underwhelming attendance as evidence that pitchouts don’t move the ticketing needle. The new AD might be more swayed by recruiting rankings. (At North Carolina State, Debbie Yow cited tepid signing classes as partial cause for Tom O’Brien’s dismissal.) The new AD might ask when/if this program will again be competitive against Georgia.

The nice part about beating USC was that it stirred, pun intended, a bit of a buzz around a program that hasn’t lately raised much ruckus. But that was one game, and an odd game at that. The new AD might, as new ADs do, look hard at a body of work.

Dave Braine hired Gailey as a coach and handed him a new five-year contract in November 2005, but it took less than two years for Radakovich, who succeeded Braine, to decide Chan wasn’t his man. Yes, Johnson has been better than Gailey, but maybe by not as much as you’d think. Through five seasons, Gailey was 37-27. Through five seasons, Johnson is 41-26.

This isn’t to suggest that Johnson could or should be fired. The belief here is that he’s a good coach, but it would behoove him to have a big 2013. Athletic directors find it easier to embrace a coach who’s holding a trophy.

By Mark Bradley

274 comments Add your comment

GT in CT

January 2nd, 2013
12:27 pm

First in 2013?

JTB

January 2nd, 2013
12:30 pm

Gosh can you imagine the awful players we would have in place if a new coach was hired and Tech went to a drop-back passing team? *shivers* A coaching change is a scary thought with Tech’s current depth chart

Mark Bradley

January 2nd, 2013
12:40 pm

GT in CT

January 2nd, 2013
12:42 pm

I like CPJ and hope we keep him, but I wonder if his disdain for the recruiting ratings and his confidence in his system causes him to underachieve in recruiting, believing that he doesn’t need to get better recruits because he can do more with less.

Birdhair

January 2nd, 2013
12:45 pm

Hey GTBob, want to see a weak schedule? Go see any ACC schedule

UGABob

January 2nd, 2013
12:45 pm

Pretty funny that a “big year” for Tech is 9 or 10 wins. GT in CT, what do you get for being “first?”

JL

January 2nd, 2013
12:46 pm

@ GT in CT:

Maybe he believes that, but if he can do more with less, he can do even more with more, so I can’t imagine why he wouldn’t try hard in recruiting.

GTT

January 2nd, 2013
12:48 pm

Birdhair

January 2nd, 2013
12:50 pm

Mark “birdhair” Richt 11-1 career vs nerds. Mark Richt career winning percentage .750. Yet the AJC still thinks that Johnson is a superior coach compared to Richt. Put Johnson in the S E C and hed be fired already

GTBob

January 2nd, 2013
12:54 pm

Pretty funny that a “big year” for Tech is 9 or 10 wins.

Who do you think we are? Alabama?

82Dawg

January 2nd, 2013
12:54 pm

@Birdhair ….put CPJ at 50% of the other schools in the ACC and he would be fired…

Pete

January 2nd, 2013
12:59 pm

My understanding is that NFL caliber recruits want to play in an “NFL style” offense and even though one can rack up impressive stats in the spread NFL scouts discounts them because of the system. CPJ seems to always say he’s getting the athletes he needs, it is obvious when they line up against a team like GA that the quality of talent is nowhere close.

Can CPJ overcome this recruiting gap? I don’t believe his system is good enough against the talent that top teams have. Can he recruit better? That said, if we had a truly top defense (and I don’t see why NFL caliber players wouldn’t want to play for Tech) the offense might be good enough to get it done.

In a weird way I wonder if CPJ wouldn’t be more successful in the NFL where the system is such that the quality of players between teams is more equal. He did best when recruiting wasn’t as important and he wasn’t facing teams with superior talent at almost every position.

GT Dude

January 2nd, 2013
1:00 pm

Not really worried about the Offense, it is still the Defensive that needs some tweaking
QB competition should be really hot with Zad Lee, Justin Thomas, and Tim Byerly
Looking forward to a great home schedule
Expect a 9 or 10 win season in 2013

Ted M

January 2nd, 2013
1:02 pm

Paul Johnson is only a good offensive coach in every other facet he stinks and he stinks at hiring people who can coach special teams & defense.

GTBob

January 2nd, 2013
1:02 pm

He did best when recruiting wasn’t as important and he wasn’t facing teams with superior talent at almost every position.

Huh? He coached at Navy where he had almost no talent at all and turned them into a decent program.

A person SMART enough to know.....

January 2nd, 2013
1:03 pm

Richt, Bobo and Murray are 4-10 against top 25 teams the last 3 years. That would get them fired and benched at the Good SEC schools.

Bryan GT04

January 2nd, 2013
1:04 pm

MB, try taking a look at the tech future schedule out there. Tech hosts FSU next year also.

A person SMART enough to know.....

January 2nd, 2013
1:05 pm

If Techs defense of the last 6 quarters had been around for the other 12 /12 games Tech would have had a great year this year. I hope some of the Defensive issues have been fixed and the new kids coming in can make an impact fast.

George Stein

January 2nd, 2013
1:08 pm

Just posted this on Ken’s blog. Al Groh had some not-so-nice things to say.
http://m.roanoke.com/mapp/story.aspx?arcID=318513

Mr Smiley

January 2nd, 2013
1:10 pm

I think it’s safe to bet that GT will go up and UGA will go down in 2013.

GT has basically zero NFL talent leaving and have shown signs of improvements on D (can’t be any worse). The O will be just as good if not better with Vad.

UGA is losing half their D to the NFL, probably Murray too, and could have a whole new look next year. Also have to play a tougher schedule than the only-chance-for-a-national-championship schedule they played this year.

UGABob

January 2nd, 2013
1:12 pm

How can Tech in 9 games? They will lose for sure to VA Tech, Clemson, Miami, and UGA. Probably BYU as well.

GTBob

January 2nd, 2013
1:12 pm

Time for Johnson to go!

UGABob

January 2nd, 2013
1:14 pm

Mr. Smiley that was funny. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that yet UGA always ends up with the better season and of course always beats Tech. With or without Murray, UGA’s offense will be loaded. Yes, they lose a lot on defense but UGA simply reloads, and does not rebuild.

btgt69

January 2nd, 2013
1:17 pm

Mark, I thought we were playing FSU at home in 2013. Right or wrong?

dawgfan

January 2nd, 2013
1:18 pm

Here comes the jaw flapping and tough talk out of the nerd herd again. There’s nothing like a win over a 7-5 team in a meaningless crap bowl game to get the confidence level up I guess. Stop and think for a second Techies? Where has all of your big talk ever gotten you? Serious question.

Cos Spofford

January 2nd, 2013
1:22 pm

Mark – this analysis is unfair, and I have been reading you long enough to recognize that you know it. The criteria for evaluating a coach is more complicated if a college sees football as a means to an end and not an end onto itself. Georgia Tech prides itself on preparing students for a competitive work force. Those who attend quickly find out that their diploma must be earned. There are no special football degrees. Athletes come to Georgia Tech because they recognize that the chances of becoming a pro athlete are low and having a Georgia Tech degree matters if you wish to participate in something meaningful if you do not make it as a pro.

Thus graduation rates and the success of your athletes after sports matter. And since this is the end that Georgia Tech focuses upon, then a football coach is restricted in the pool of athletes that he can consider. Given this environment, Paul Johnson is the perfect coach because his schemes leverage intelligence and focus on teamwork. Georgia Tech will never get many five star athletes if they refuse to lower academic requirements. If we are to evaluate Paul Johnson, we need to look at academic success and success of players in the work force as well as achievement on the football field. From what I see, Paul Johnson makes us competitive while still upholding the ideals of Georgia Tech. What more can we ask?

Mr Smiley

January 2nd, 2013
1:23 pm

UGABob…Tech will only lose “for sure” to Georgia (this coming from a tech fan who can clinches his teeth when saying that), the track record would point in that direction. For the other 3 schools you mention, not sure how any of those loses are “for sure” since tech goes toe-to-toe with those teams every year and wins half the time.

And I didn’t say GT would have the better season than UGA, I said GT would go up and UGA would go down from this year. Before you start spitting out baseless rhetoric, go celebrate your 10 preseason national championships from this past decade.

Jacket Fan

January 2nd, 2013
1:27 pm

Vad Lee is probably good enough next fall to get on Sports Center a few times (with Thomas and Byerly backing him up, enough depth). Plenty of good starters and depth in most positions. However….. wide receiver – we have Waller and Moore, Autry back from injury, with Summers and Henry (both redshirt freshmen next fall) having to step in. Good enough – who knows (will we get them the ball enough to know for sure?)? Biggest question mark (as always) – defensive line. Ends are probably good enough, with some depth, especially with Gamble and Kallon available next year. Nose tackle – after Green, who? Gotsis? Kitchen? We have one freshman recruit listed (285 pounds – not big enough yet). With what we are able to recruit, still think we should run a 4-3-4 or 4-2-5, depending on down and distance. However, I am paid very little for my opinions. GO JACKETS!

UGABob

January 2nd, 2013
1:28 pm

10 preseason national championships? No such thing. I don’t claim things like that little man. I am realistic.

Curry for AD...PLEASE

January 2nd, 2013
1:28 pm

Tech would have to improve a great deal and Georgia would have to drop significantly to close a 42-10 gap.

dawgfan

January 2nd, 2013
1:31 pm

If anybody is buying the complete and utter BS Cos Spofford is spewing I also have some waterfront property on the freaking moon that you might be interested in. Let me know.

A person SMART enough to know.....

January 2nd, 2013
1:49 pm

dWadfan I doubt you could even read and comprehend what Cos Spofford posted.

Shhheeeezzzzz

January 2nd, 2013
1:52 pm

Paul Johnson must be replaced before we can be a consistant 10 win/season team. Johnson might win 1 out of 8/9 from UGA. I hate losing to them and we should want more. There are a lot of great assistants and or available HC that are far more better than Johnson. It starts with recruiting and this clown can’t recruit.

GT TN

January 2nd, 2013
1:54 pm

@Curry for AD..PLEASE..you let your ignorance be known when you consider a score of 1 game closing a gap..based on that thought process UGA has a long way to go before they can compete with USC 35-7..also that means Clemson has passed UGA since they lost to USC 27-17 and beat LSU and UGA lost by 32 the last time they played..I hope you are smarter than your comment

Ramblin Wreck

January 2nd, 2013
1:56 pm

I find the analysis of the Tech offense amusing.The offense works if you have the talent. Period. Always has, and the numbers show it. There are a few time where it was beaten, but superior talent with do that (hello, Adrian Clayborn in the Orange Bowl). If you can’t get a block, you can’t win.

I am a CPJ fan and think he should stay. However, to be fair, I have two criticisms so far:

1) The Defensive Coordinator hires have both been busts. This next hire is crucial for him.The D has cost us major games in the last couple of seasons (say hello to Utah, VT, Miami, MTSU, etc.).

2) It seems to be the CPJ is more interested in seeing his offense run “correctly” as opposed to seeing it run successfully. To me, it’s the difference between Washington and Lee (and I don’t mean the university in Virginia). Tevin knows the offense, makes the right reads, and runs the offense
“correctly”. He just doesn’t have the physical gifts to get them done sometimes. Vad doesn’t know it as well (yet) and makes more poor reads. However, he is so gifted he can make something out of nothing. I think we have to be willing to put the talent on the field and let them figure it out. We’ll see that next year as Lee goes into the spring as the starter.

I give most coaches a longer leash than most, and I think next year is Johnson’s big year. He finally has the big-time quarterback he recruited (Washington was in the first recruiting class, when no one knew what to expect). The recruiting has gotten better on both sides of the ball (other than the big year of Gailey’s, CPJ has out-recruited him according to most services). If next year is another 7-7 campaign as the defense doesn’t improve, even I will have to start wondering what the future could hold.

Shhheeeezzzzz

January 2nd, 2013
2:00 pm

I’m sorry, I just don’t buy it. If you look at our schedule we should have easily won 10 games this year. Poor coaching decisions, no poor coaching period. This is not all Groh’s fault. Johnson has yet to take responsibility for the past couple of years. Our players are good enough to win 9 to 11 games in the league we are in.
Man, I just don’t get how a lot of you accept Johnson’s performance. It ticks me off!!

cattledawg

January 2nd, 2013
2:02 pm

I dont hear Stanford whining or making excuses about academic standards….. What a joke techies. You guys can win just like everybody else. Half the defensive players UGA signs turn Tech down

dawgfan

January 2nd, 2013
2:02 pm

I can understand it fine. If what he says is true you morons need to stop paying Paul Johnson $2.6 million a year, which ranks him right up there with some of the best coaches in college football. If you’re going to go with this “we’re all about academics” crap to excuse your pizz poor performances on the football field then you need to pay the man less money. Otherwise people are going to think you are complete full of crap, just like me.

Can you read and comprehend that Techie?

Mark Bradley

January 2nd, 2013
2:06 pm

The ACC part of Tech’s schedule hasn’t been set. There is a chance they’ll play Florida State here, but it’s not yet certain. There is also a chance that Tech would play again at Clemson in 2013.

GT Lee

January 2nd, 2013
2:07 pm

“Otherwise people are going to think you are complete full of crap, just like me.”

Yes dwagfan, we understand that you are full of crap.

True story.

Thanks

Dawglasville

January 2nd, 2013
2:10 pm

If Bama is the standard UGA is held up against then I think Stanford and Notre Dame are the standards Tech should be held up against.

GTBob

January 2nd, 2013
2:12 pm

If you’re going to go with this “we’re all about academics” crap to excuse your pizz poor performances on the football field then you need to pay the man less money.

Why? Part of his job is to bring in players who can succeed at GT and do everything in his power to make it happen. He is doing pretty well at that. Brian Gregory is doing pretty good as well from what I have heard. There is a good academic environment for our athletes right now and it would be a shame to mess that up. I hope the new AD appreciates that.

Bobby Dodd

January 2nd, 2013
2:12 pm

Hey DawgFan and UGA Bobbie,
First, get off our blog and go back to the pizza parlor or Effies, or where ever you work (if you even work). Secondly, crap bowl? Didn’t you guys just play in a crap bowl against a team that got 70 hung on them by Wisconsin???? Wisconsin??? Wisconsin??? 70 by Wisconsin and you panzies can’t break 50???? Then go back and read your record against the “real” SEC teams (leave out your patsie schedule from the past two years). Then 9 or 10 wins looks real good to you woof woof woof guys. Seriously, I was in a pub yesterday watching the GA/Nebraska tilt and my lunch kept getting interrupted by a couple grown men going woof woof woof woof woof. Really?

dawgfan

January 2nd, 2013
2:13 pm

“I dont hear Stanford whining or making excuses about academic standards….. ”

Or Vanderbilt. Or Duke. Or Northwestern. Or UCLA. Or…just about any football program with dignity and self-respect. Nobody whines and cries as much as Tech fans about academics. This is beyond dispute.

What they simply cannot get through their thick freaking skulls is that nobody cares. Even assuming all of their BS about academics is true, why should anyone care? Its your problem Techies. Deal with it. Nobody feels sorry for Tennessee because there aren’t any good football players in Tennessee. That’s their problem. Nobody feels sorry for Boise State because they have a tough time selling recruits on the Mountain West conference and living in Idaho. That’s their problem. I don’t know what you Techies want out of everyone other than sympathy. If football life is so hard for you then quit or drop down a division. That’s all I can tell you. I’m sorry. Just quit your effing crying and have a little freaking respect for yourselves. Good grief.

Can you Techies read and comprehend all of that?

Gordon

January 2nd, 2013
2:14 pm

I’m hoping we play Clemson away in 2013 to get them in the opposite year from UGA.

Regarding the new AD, he may take a hard look at Johnson, but when he looks at the buyout he will realize we have at least two more years with him. But that’s not a bad thing, because Johnson seems to be adjusting his offense to the personnel. I’m seeing less and less TO, and I think that trend will continue with Vad Lee moving into the starting role.

10per

January 2nd, 2013
2:15 pm

The outlook for the offense is good. A more athletic QB changes things enough to create problems for opposing defenses. If we can get a solid B back, things will really start to open up.

The concern is how the D will shake out and shape up. A new co-coordinator and scheme? I don’t see us ever having the size and talent to shut down teams like Alabama (have we ever had that?) but if the offense is working than just being able to get a team off the field without giving up a score will be enough. Watching the Gamecocks yesterday I caught myself dreaming of having a fast imposing D like that.

Better O and an OK D. Clempson did well with that combo this year…

BravesFan79

January 2nd, 2013
2:16 pm

I think GT will be much better in 13, but if Johnson ever went to the NFL (not happening), id be interesting to see what he could do in Jacksonville with Tebow as his QB.

Iluvnutella

January 2nd, 2013
2:17 pm

If Fish-fry will get us a defense(recruit good players) he will be just fine…….remains to be seen if he will.

GTBob

January 2nd, 2013
2:19 pm

I dont hear Stanford whining or making excuses about academic standards

Really, you dont?

http://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/HIGHER-STANDARDS-Stanford-teams-finding-it-s-2589894.php#ixzz2GmSVg8PK

Their whining might have worked.

Iluvnutella

January 2nd, 2013
2:20 pm

Also, hate to say it, but I agree with dawgfan @ 2 13pm. Its time to recruit……excuses are for losers.